The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (DFW) recently announced the closure of recreational fishing in several rivers and streams, including possibly the American River.

“We fully understand the impact these closures will have on California anglers and the businesses related to fishing in California, and we really feel for them,” said DFW Director Charlton H. Bonham in a statement. “However the science is clear. Two-thirds of the wettest part of winter is now behind us and conditions are looking increasingly grim. Under these extreme drought conditions, it is prudent to conserve and protect as many adult fish as possible to help ensure the future of fishing in California.”

Signs of the drought is evident. According to the The Sacramento Bee, the once-rushing American River is reduced to the lowest water levels officials have seen in 21 years. This has caused salmon and steelhead migrating upstream to become concentrated in smaller and smaller areas, and conservation groups were the first to petition the DFW to close the river to fishing. In most cases anglers agree, as closing waterways hard hit by the drought will increase the chances for adult fish to survive. Eggs and juveniles, however, face bleak chances of survival if the current dry spell continues. Wildlife officials are especially worried about the future of the state’s coho salmon. Low water levels are preventing many of the fish from reaching their native streams in a spawning season that is make or break for the coho.

The closure of so many rivers across the state is also a first for California, even eclipsing similar efforts taken during the 1976 drought.

“To the best of our knowledge, this is the first time the department has taken this type of emergency action,” FW spokeswoman Jordan Traverso told The Fresno Bee. “This epic drought changes everything.”

The closure of these rivers has a large impact on guide services, which have to put business off until the drought subsides.

“It’s very disheartening,” fishing guide Al Ezell told CBS Sacramento. “I have people calling me wanting to go fishing. Some of my regular clients I have to turn them down, because I don’t feel like it is a good idea to go out when there is no fish.”

For more details on river closings, please visit the DFW here.

Image from Devin Cook on the Wikimedia Commons

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